Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.” Credit: Danielle A. Scruggs

The Reader’s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.

Is a Chicago without police a possibility? In the 2016 article “Abolish the police? Organizers say it’s less crazy than it sounds.” Reader staff writer Maya Dukmasova explored the history of abolitionism, spoke with local activists fighting for change, and reported the Chicago Police Department’s response (or lack thereof) to the movement.

The idea of police abolition in the city gained national attention when Jessica Disu unintentionally brought up the issue during a heated discussion on Fox News. From there it became clear that many local groups were ready to stand with her.

On July 15, Assata’s Daughters, a black feminist group often described as a radical version of the Girl Scouts, led an #AbolitionChiNow march across Bronzeville. On July 20, the #LetUsBreathe Collective, formed in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, launched an occupation of an empty lot across the street from CPD’s Homan Square facility in North Lawndale. The collective dubbed it “Freedom Square,” publicized it as an experiment in “imagining a world without police,” and called for the city to put its $1.4 billion police budget to other uses. Following the fatal police shooting of Paul O’Neal on July 28, young people made explicit calls for police abolition in front of CPD headquarters. And on August 7, several black teen girls organized a march for abolition that drew hundreds of supporters to the Loop.

It seems the city finds itself at the epicenter of a growing movement imagining and building a world without cops. And some grassroots groups, tired of waiting for top-down change from the very agencies they protest, have taken it upon themselves to start building the abolitionist society they want to live in.

And it’s not just marches and protests supporting the idea—Dukmasova dives into community gatherings, meetings in church basements, and other alternatives.